Daily Briefing

10 things you need to know today: October 24, 2020

Tim O'Donnell
Coronavirus testing site.
FREDERIC J. BROWN/AFP via Getty Images

1.

U.S. sets new single-day coronavirus case record

The United States on Friday recorded more than 85,000 new coronavirus cases, The New York Times reports. That set a new single-day record, breaking the previous mark from mid-July by nearly 10,000 cases. Hospitalizations have also been rising steadily since the start of October, and while deaths have mostly remained flat, they are often a lagging indicator. The current surge is most heavily concentrated in the Midwest and West, but it's spread out more widely than the previous waves from the spring and summer, which occurred primarily in the Northeast and Sun Belt, respectively. More than 170 counties across 36 states were designated rapidly rising hotspots, an internal federal report produced Thursday for Department of Health and Human Services officials that was obtained by The Washington Post revealed. [The Washington Post, The New York Times]

2.

Trump, Biden to campaign in key battleground states

President Trump is expected to cast his ballot in his adopted home state of Florida early Saturday morning, after which he is scheduled to hold rallies in three key battleground states — North Carolina, Ohio, and Wisconsin. The president spent Friday campaigning in the Sunshine State, another crucial swing state. With the election drawing ever closer, Trump's Democratic competitor, former Vice President Joe Biden, will also spend Saturday campaigning. He is set to host a drive-in event in Bucks County, Pennsylvania, where Hillary Clinton narrowly edged Trump in the 2016 election, and another in the Keystone State's Luzerne County, which overwhelmingly backed Trump four years ago, but voted for former President Barack Obama in the two prior elections. [Reuters, The Associated Press]

3.

Coronavirus death toll in U.S. could pass 500,000 by March, study suggests

The U.S. coronavirus death toll could potentially surpass half a million by the end of February, but nearly 130,000 lives could be saved through universal mask use, a new study says. The study published on Friday in Nature Medicine estimated that by Feb. 28, 2021, the COVID-19 death toll in the United States could reach 511,373, assuming states reinstate social distancing mandates when their number of daily deaths rises to a certain level. Should states continue to ease their social distancing mandates, the death toll could pass one million, researchers said. But the study also projects that if 95 percent of the population wore masks in public, this "could be sufficient to ameliorate the worst effects of epidemic resurgences in many states," and 129,574 deaths could be prevented. If 85 percent of the population wore masks in public, 95,814 deaths could be prevented. [USA Today, The New York Times]

4.

Final 2020 debate draws 63 million viewers, down from the 1st debate

Thursday's debate between President Trump and Democratic presidential nominee Joe Biden averaged about 63 million viewers, Nielsen said on Friday. This was down from the 73 million viewers who watched the first 2020 presidential debate in September, and it meant that of the five general election debates Trump has taken part in, Thursday's drew the smallest television audience. The final presidential debate in 2016 drew 71.6 million viewers. This second debate between Trump and Biden was widely seen as more of a success than the first one, which was derailed by frequent interruptions from Trump. An additional 2020 debate had previously been scheduled to take place, but it was canceled after Trump refused to participate due to plans to hold it virtually. [CNN, The New York Times]

5.

Israel and Sudan agree to normalize relations, Trump announces

President Trump announced that Israel and Sudan will normalize relations. The White House on Friday said that Israel and Sudan "have agreed to the normalization of relations," touting this as a "historic agreement" and calling it "another major step toward building peace in the Middle East." Trump spoke in the Oval Office about the agreement, with Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu joining him over the phone. The move from Sudan follows similar announcements from the United Arab Emirates and Bahrain. Netanyahu said Israeli and Sudanese delegations will meet "soon" to discuss cooperation in agriculture and trade. Like the previous deals the White House helped broker, Palestinians criticized the agreement with Sudan, while Iran said it was secured by "ransom." [CNN, Reuters]

6.

FBI: Far-right extremist shot at Minneapolis police precinct during Floyd protests

A far-right extremist opened fire on Minneapolis' third police precinct and sparked violence during May's George Floyd protests, the FBI said in a sworn affidavit released Friday. Ivan Harrison Hunter, a 26-year-old from Texas and admitted member of the "Boogaloo Bois," was charged Friday with one count of interstate travel to participate in a riot. Hunter fired 13 rounds at the precinct while officers were inside and ran away shouting "Justice for Floyd," the FBI alleges. Hunter later allegedly looted the police station and helped set it on fire, and bragged about it to other members of the far-right group. He allegedly texted about the incident with Steven Carrillo, another Boogaloo member who later shot and killed a sheriff's deputy in California. [Minneapolis Star Tribune]

7.

Poland's Duda tests positive for coronavirus

Polish President Andrzej Duda tested positive for the coronavirus Friday, a presidential minister said Saturday. Duda is the latest among a handful of world leaders, including President Trump, to contract the virus. He reportedly "feels good" and is in isolation. Poland's president guides foreign policy and signs legislation, but most duties designated for the office are ceremonial, and day-to-day governance is the responsibility of the prime minister. Duda's positive test result comes amid a wave of infections in Poland, which saw low rates earlier this year when the virus first struck Europe. On Saturday, the country recorded 13,628 new COVID-19 cases and 179 deaths, marking new highs since the pandemic began. The virus continues to surge in other European countries, as well, including the Czech Republic, Belgium, the Netherlands, Switzerland, France, Italy, and Spain. [The Associated Press, CNN]

8.

Navy training plane crashes in Alabama, killing 2 onboard

A U.S. Navy training plane that took off Friday afternoon from Naval Air Station Whiting Field, about 30 miles northeast of Pensacola, Florida, crashed in a residential neighborhood in Foley, Alabama. Both people in the plane were killed, authorities said. The names of the crewmen who died will not be released for 24 hours after the families are notified. Foley Fire Chief Joey Darby said responders encountered a home and several cars engulfed in a "large volume of fire," but firefighters were able to quickly put out the flames, and there are no reports of injuries on the ground. The Defense Department and the Navy are preparing to launch an investigation into the crash. [The Associated Press, Fox News]

9.

AstraZeneca, Johnson & Johnson preparing to restart paused vaccine trials

Coronavirus vaccine trials conducted by AstraZeneca and Johnson & Johnson are preparing to resume, the pharmaceutical companies said Friday. Both studies were put on hold after two volunteers who received AstraZeneca's vaccine candidate developed a possible neurological side effect, and another person who received J&J's shot reportedly suffered a stroke. AstraZeneca said the trial's independent monitoring committees and international regulators agreed it was safe to resume the trial. The Food and Drug Administration reportedly did not find the vaccine to be responsible for the neurological symptoms, but the agency was also unable to definitively rule out a link. Similarly, investigators concluded the J&J volunteer's illness did not appear to be related to the vaccine, although there was "no clear cause" of the incident. [The Washington Post, The Wall Street Journal]

10.

Early data suggests schools aren't driving coronavirus outbreaks

Reopening schools doesn't seem to be a major contributor to coronavirus community spread, data from random testing in the U.S. and Britain reveals. That's especially true of elementary schools, the data shows. While it's true that children can and have been infected with COVID-19 and can transmit the virus to adults, it seems they aren't the ones driving coronavirus spikes across the two countries, experts who've seen the data say. The risks among children in middle and high schools are less clear, and there are still more research and protection efforts needed to reopen schools. But with strong safety measures in place, and a plan to shut down if case numbers rise, experts agree younger children can slowly return to school. [The New York Times]